Mavs can’t finish comeback against Boston, Luka fouls out and they now face elimination

Despite a raucous home crowd and a strong start, the Dallas Mavericks are on the verge being swept from the NBA Finals after a 106-99 loss to Boston in Game 3 on Wednesday.

No team has ever come back to win the NBA Championship after losing the first three games.

The Celtics jumped out to a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter before Dallas stormed back with strong defense and a barrage of 3s to cut it to three, but Luka Doncic fouled out with a little more than 4 minutes left and their offense fizzled out.

Dallas jumped out to a 25-12 lead in the first quarter as Doncic and Kyrie Irving combined for 18 points. The duo seemed poised to carry the Mavericks to a much-needed victory, but it was the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown had other thoughts.

The two all-star forwards combined for 61 points and Brown was a key catalyst in Boston’s decisive run in the second half. With Tatum on the bench, the Celtics only led 71-65 with 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Boston outscored Dallas 20-5 over the next five minutes of game time and established a commanding 91-70 lead at the start of the fourth.

Brown scored almost half of the points during the run including a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter. To the Mavericks’ credit, Dallas answered with a 12-0 run to make it a nine-point game with 8 minutes remaining. Dallas cut it to a one possession game before Doncic fouled out while trying to take a charge.

Even with Doncic sidelined, the game was still up for grabs as two buckets by Dereck Lively cut it to 100-98 with just over a minute remaining. The Mavs had one last shot to make it a one possession game, but Irving’s 3 fell short and Boston hit its free throws to ice the game.

Irving’s response

Irving was off his game in the first two games of the Finals in Boston, but the veteran guard showed his championship pedigree at some point. Irving was on fire to start Game 3, scoring the Mavericks’ first bucket as he went right at Jrue Holiday for a layup. Irving was much better at finishing at the rim than he was in the first two games as he aggressively slashed to the basket, even scoring on bigger defenders like Al Horford.

With Doncic struggling in the second quarter, Irving picked up the slack after the Celtics overcame a double-digit deficit in the first quarter. Irving hit two straight stepback 3-point jumpers to put Dallas back in front 44-40 with less than 4 minutes remaining in the second quarter. Irving had 20 points in the first half as Dallas took a narrow 51-50 lead after leading by as many as 13 points.

Irving helped spark the comeback in the fourth including hitting three clutch free throws to make it 93-90 with 6:11 remaining. Irving scored a couple more clutch buckets, but it wasn’t enough. Irving finished with a game-high 35 points and four 3-pointers.

Tatum’s arrival

Like Irving, the first two games of the Finals were for Jayson Tatum. The Boston star forward shot 31.6% in the first two games and has been the focus of plenty of criticism. Tatum reminded the American Airlines Center crowd why he’s made three straight first team All-NBA teams with a strong opening half as he matched Irving with 22 points.

Buoyed by his success in the first half, Tatum continued attacking in the third as Boston slowly took control of the game. Tatum knocked down a deep 3-pointer and finished a dunk in transition to give Boston a 71-61 lead with 6:09 remaining in the quarter.

Tatum finished with 31 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Porzingis’ absence

After being a major spark plug for the Celtics, Boston big man Kristaps Porzingis was ruled out of Game 3 with an injury and it provided a boost for the Mavericks early. The Celtics had to turn to Xavier Tillman for Porzingis’ minutes and while Tillman is a gritty, defensive minded veteran, he doesn’t have the same shooting ability as Porzingis.

Boston struggled without Porzingis, falling into an early hole, but the Celtics played most of the postaeason with the talented 7-footer and adjusted as the game went on. Horford played more minutes and continued to show why he’s so valuable. He guarded Irving and Doncic about as well as any big man could be expected to and knocked down two big 3-pointers for the Celtics.

Horford and Tillman combined for 11 points, giving Boston just enough to not feel the absence of Porzingis.